Style Voices

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Ciara O'Connor: 'Yewande and Maura are the allegorical puppet show of old versus new Ireland'

Maura Higgins on ITV's Love Island
Maura Higgins on ITV's Love Island
Yewande Biala threatens to quit Love Island (ITV/Shutterstock)

Ciara O'Connor

A beleaguered Love Island - smarting from last week's accusations of racism from a contestant, and a Women's Aid statement about controlling behaviour - limps on, noble and defiant.

Our ritual offerings of Yewande and Maura continue to act in the allegorical puppet show of old versus new Ireland.

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In one corner, there's Yewande whose emotional continence ("I don't like. talking. about. how. I. feel".) became untenable last week: her partner Danny got upset she wasn't more demonstrative and communicative, and the villa backed him up.

He asked: "How do you move forward if you can't talk about your feelings?" Well, Danny, ask any Irish couple over the age of 30: you court, marry, live, reproduce and never talk about any of it. You die never having had any feelings.

Yewande Biala threatens to quit Love Island (ITV/Shutterstock)
Yewande Biala threatens to quit Love Island (ITV/Shutterstock)

Yewande had no time for public displays of affection and snuggling in bed. She was wary, mistrustful of Love Island's customary grand sweeping, premature, statements: "When a guy says you're the one for me, that rings alarm bells." She grew exasperated at needing to 'constantly reassure' Danny - but constant reassurance and loud snogging is the very essence of Love Island and her housemates had no sympathy for her, although the whole of Ireland did.

In the other corner is Maura, poster girl for new, liberated, kind of provocative Ireland. Seemingly highly sexed Maura would announce 'fanny flutters' over a nice cup of tea; and when Danny expressed some quiet doubts about Yewande's reticence, Maura immediately counselled him to "just f**kin nip it in the f**kin bud". Later, flagrantly disregarding girl-code, Maura told some of the gang that she might as well crack on with Danny herself, swiping him from Yewande - which would leave our queen vulnerable to getting dumped from the island.

In the end, Yewande put on a sexy dress, took Danny to the stools, and gave him a Love Island speech for the ages. She permitted his hands on her calves, her knees resting between his legs, a public wet kiss. Danny looked thrilled. It was a bittersweet moment: Maura, the caricature of fourth-wave feminist Ireland, who claims to not understand why she wouldn't speak openly about sex, was vanquished; but watching our sweet, emotionally stunted Yewande compromise her sceptical misanthropy felt uneasy. And she's not out of the woods yet.

*******

Some days I worry about the death of the media, newspapers and journalism; other days, Taylor Swift releases a song that provides a cornucopia of content and I know in my heart that for as long as Taylor lives, so will The News.

Last week she smashed it out of the park, dropping the second single You Need to Calm Down, from her not-yet-released album. The video was drenched in rainbows and drag queens, with cameos from famous gays and allies, from Ellen DeGeneres to Ryan Reynolds. Hot takes abounded: Taylor Swift is pinkwashing, queerbaiting, centering herself; Taylor Swift is the gay messiah, inclusive, revolutionary; Taylor Swift is elitist; Taylor Swift is the voice of the people; Taylor Swift has grown as a musician and person; Taylor Swift is a trapped in eternal adolescent egocentrism.

You Need to Calm Down is as generic as her last single, Me, and is as much about Taylor, and as little to do with gay rights, as any of her other sassy anthems.

The much-quoted line, "shade never made anybody less gay" stands out as a curious intermission in a song that is otherwise about straight Taylor and all the people who are mean to her - a recurring Swiftian theme. Swift's favourite leitmotif, the snake, shows up in the first bridge. This is a song about Taylor's internet trolls: except the video provides some plausible deniability that it's about homophobic internet trolls.

In fairness, Taylor probably feels they are basically the same thing. Only a cold, brainwashed grouch could hate gay rights/Taylor Swift. How would THEY feel if they had a child who was gay/a billionaire singer-songwriter? Is it really, truly, Christian to hate gayness/the music of Taylor Swift?

The video reaches its zenith with Taylor Swift (dressed as chips) and Katy Perry (Taylor's former enemy, dressed as a burger) embrace. The message is clear: if Taylor Swift can embrace Katy Perry, then homophobes can embrace the gays. It's the same!

*******

This week in Millennials do the Darndest Things: a bar for 28-year-old conversion optimisation managers who like to pretend they're wizards. The Cauldron, the Harry Potter-themed bar, will be expanding into Dublin next month, having had success with 'The Magical Experience' in London and New York.

For around €35, adult-babies are given their own magic wand and make both of their own drinks. They promise a molecular potion options, each with different effects. All cocktail menus should have a list of effects, "Gin Fizz, seven of these will make you call up your ex crying in an Uber home!" or "Tequila Sunrise, liable to make you believe you are in Coyote Ugly! Just kidding! Obviously, these will still make you call up your ex crying in an Uber home."

*******

Although millennials invented The Nude, the generation below us have made it their own. Nude photos are to Gen Z's sexuality is what 10 pints were to Gen X. But never was the generation gap more obvious than last week's Bella Thorne/Whoopi Goldberg debate about whether the 22-year-old actress should have expected private selfies to stay private. Thorne released her nude pictures to pre-empt an extortion attempt by a hacker. She was lauded for taking back the power, but on a US chat show, Whoopi Goldberg had a boomer take: Bella shouldn't have taken the photos, because the minute you do, "it goes into the cloud and it's available to any hacker who wants it". Bella retaliated on Instagram stories, cancelling her appearance on the show, saying: "I don't want to be beaten down by a bunch of older woman for my body and my sexuality."

This video was the greatest generational cleft. If there's one thing our elders think is more vulgar than naked selfies, it's recording videos of yourself crying.

Tits are one thing, but tears are another. Yewande would be horrified.

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